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Riots – blame digital isolation

August 10th, 2011 Comments off

By Angela Long

Rapper Reveal, a dapper gent with a small geometric tuft of beard, has an interesting theory about the British riots. The kids, he says, are merely aping the behaviour they’ve seen in adults all their lives – naked pursuit of stuff, shiny fashion stuff, material goods.

It’s a sour twist on the triumph of capitalism.

Me, I blame the internet. Digital platforms, that’s what’s done it. And I do have a serious point here, not just referring to the well-publicised use of the closed Blackberry messaging system for the rioters to arrange their next ‘spectacular’.

As a cyberpsychologist, I’ve been interested for some years in how the internet is changing our lives at a deeper level than the obvious one of convenience. Some of it’s good, some is bad, but mostly the jury is still out on how a life revolving around digital platforms differs from previous modes of existence. And as all the emphasis has been on how to use the internet as a commercial tool – and for the media, how to make it pay – other bigger concerns have been ignored.

Look at the young people who’ve been out torching police cars, vandalising properties, stealing, casually and with impunity, from shops. A lot of them are 16 and under – perhaps not as many as the hysterical adult reaction suggests, but still a lot. These are the ‘digital natives’ – a term of disputed validity, but loosely referring to the generation which has grown up with the internet, and has no memory of life before the virtual world dominated. Laptops, screens, mobile phones, tablets – no novelty in any of it to these kids, nothing strange. And their world’s especially been formed on mobiles and smartphones. Read more…

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